Field Hockey Travels to Spain

Twelve members of the Upper School Field Hockey Team travelled to Spain this summer to train and perfect skills

Imagine dribbling the ball with your field hockey stick, but instead of practicing in Texas’s hot, dry terrain, you’re surrounded by electric-blue turf, sub-100-degree weather and Spanish boys.

That’s what 12 members of the Hockaday field hockey program did this summer, taking a two-week trip to Spain to not only practice their sport but also explore the streets of the foreign country.

Senior Evie Peña discovered the field hockey program e4you in a field hockey magazine during her sophomore year. After participating in the program on her own last summer, Peña enjoyed the trip so much that her parents decided to introduce the program to Hockaday.

Because varsity field hockey coach Jennifer Johnson was unable to travel due to her pregnancy, coach Jenny Francuski chaperoned the girls.

The girls that went on the trip included: seniors Catherine McGeoch, Meredith Mihalopoulos, Cate O’Brien and Peña; juniors Morgan Allen, Niha Choudhury, Madelene Danklef, Courtney Le and Cameron Malakoff; and sophomores Frances Burton, Alexandra McGeoch and Caroline McGeoch.

During the trip, the girls visited Valencia, Zaragoza and Barcelona. On the field hockey field, the Hockaday athletes faced both girl’s and boy’s teams. Caroline McGeoch said, “even though we were faster and more athletic than the Spanish teams, they ended up being better because of their stick skills.”

In Valencia, the team got an opportunity to play a boy’s team. “Since we were playing the boy’s team, the games were more unofficial and the guys ended up being more lenient and friendly,” Choudhury said. However, while playing the girl’s teams in Zaragoza, the games were much more competitive.

Choudhury also described how different it was playing on the Astroturf, a blue artificial turf field, compared to a grass field. “With turf it’s harder because if you hit a ball on the turf field you have to stop it before you keep going whereas in the grass you can sort of turn and pull it along with you. The ball just flies everywhere [on the turf].”

Astroturf differs from the field turf commonly found on football fields. Astroturf lacks the black beads, normally found on on artificial fields, and has a greater number of individual blades.

Due to the different features of the turf field, the girls focused more on pulls and fakes in order to improve their game.  Although the Hockaday girls couldn’t perfect these skills in the two week duration of the trip, they have something to work on until their next visit to Spain.

While in Zaragoza, the team visited the local spa after every practice, taking turns getting massages  before heading back to the hotel to take a siesta. After practices in Valencia, they cooled off at the beach El Saler’s aquamarine waters. They spent evenings exploring the streets and tasting exotic foods like paella, a Valencian rice dish cooked in saffron with simmered chicken or seafood.

“I really enjoyed playing and seeing everything,” Peña said, “but what I really loved was being with everyone. That was probably my favorite part.”

-Manisha Ratakonda